As a young player at Rochdale, George Bowyer never thought much about his future beyond playing and enjoyed captaining the youth and reserve teams.
After coming back from injury, George was nominated for the League Football Education’s Apprentice of The Year award but was released from the club a week later. In his current role as a youth advisor at the PFA, George uses his story to demonstrate how volatile the footballing industry can be.
As an integral part of the organisations Youth Advisory Service, he makes sure players, parents and clubs are aware of the support available and as potential future members, know all about the PFA. As part of his outreach work, George attended the Premier League U9’s Introduction tournament this month, so we caught up with him to find out more.
George, what is the PFA’s Youth Advisory Service?
The PFA’s Youth Advisory Service is an independent, confidential support service. It is created to allow academy players, trialists, parents and their guardians the opportunity to speak to us about any concerns they have in confidence.
The service provides confidential advise on the following:
- Premier League and English Football League Youth Development Rules
- Academy registrations and contractual offers
- Football Association and FIFA rules and regulations
- Scholarship offers
- Time & Distance rules and regulations
- Academy inductions
- End of season procedure
- Requesting release
- Player development and player progression
- Coaching programme
- Education programme
- Compensation rules and regulations
- Player welfare
They can ask questions in private that they may not feel confident raising with the clubs they’re playing at. We work hard to circulate information to the players and parents so that they know if they are having any issues within the academy system, we’re here to help.
Why is a service like this so important?
Naturally, young players are just concentrating on playing football, and won’t necessarily be aware of signing agreements or dealing with other factors such as intermediary approaches. The parents and guardians will be the decision makers, so it’s important that they’re aware that they can seek information and guidance from us to help make better informed decisions. If they’re being approached by intermediaries and are unsure of the rules, or the club is presenting a new registration or contract, they can contact us for more clarity or reassurance. We also send out booklets about the service to all the academies and attend as many academy tournaments as possible to interact with parents and players face to face. We aim to help them navigate the academy system and understand who the different bodies and stakeholders in the game are. We want to make sure players know who the PFA are from a young age because they are our future members. It’s important for scholars and young players to understand all the benefits of being a member and the support they will be able to access for the rest of their lives.
What is the Premier League U9’s Introduction tournament?
The Premier League has a games programme which covers the Foundation, Youth and Professional Development phases. The u9’s tournament was the first taste of a Premier League competition for the under 9 age group. It was also the perfect opportunity for us to spread awareness of our work, as many parents and guardians were in attendance. I provided information about the PFA and our Youth Advisory Service to let them know they can access support and guidance away from clubs if they need to. I have been attending tournaments for the last couple of seasons across the u9’s – u16’s. . It is also a great way to make sure key people at the clubs are aware of the available service too.
How do you build relationships after meeting people at tournaments?
I follow up by getting in touch and also sending all Premier League and EFL clubs an updated booklet detailing our services. We also have an online platform called The PFA Safety Net, which addresses some of the challenges academy players can face. I make sure the clubs, parents and players are aware of that too. It’s another confidential service where players can register and find further information relevant to their current situation. How to deal with injuries, living away from home and anxiety are just a few of the topics covered on the online platform that can affect players during their career. There are animated videos, a support chat facility, and useful information with signposts to external support if necessary.
What’s next for the youth advisory service?
I’ll be attending further events throughout the season. I’m currently in contact with the EFL as they also have a games programme that I’d like to attend. This will allow me to engage with even more clubs, players and parents. I’m also planning to visit the academies and speak to parents, where I can explain more about the PFA and the Youth Advisory Service. We’re trying to be proactive about highlighting the service as it’s important to us that people know we’re here. Our mission is to support all young players and ensure that they, their parents and guardians know that they can contact us for free confidential advice and guidance.
More advice for academy players, trialists and their parents\carers is available here.